on 6 December 2005
Whilst this film may not have lived up to the expectation of fans of either of it's predecessors, KOYAANISQATSI and POWAQQATSI, it does exist in the same realm. A story told without words accompanied by the extraordinary music of Philip Glass (this time voiced in the main by Yo-Yo Ma). In NAQOYQATSI, literally Life As War, images are manipulated to demonstrate the idea that how we see things changes our perception of what we see and that the brave new world, using the film's terminology, has become a place where civilised violence is the norm.
The film relies more heavily on technology than the first two, but then with a fifteen year gap between the 2nd and 3rd films, it can be said that the technology was not available when the first two films were made. Had it been, they may not have had the impact that they have, even now. Is all progress progress? Certainly followers of Godfrey Reggio, the director, will be familiar with this quandary and in that sense alone the film does not disappoint.
Reasons to buy this DVD? The film didn't receive a wide release in the UK and the images and music are definitely worth the paltry price of the DVD. In fact they are worth a great deal more! Additionally, on the DVD is a panel discussion that took place at New York University just before NAQOYQATSI was released in the US. This feature gives a tremendous insight into the whole Qatsi trilogy and the particular contributions of the collaborators of this film. Fans of the Qatsi trilogy should buy the DVD just to see this feature. The other extras however are perfunctory.
If you enjoy this film, also look out for a short film entitled: "The Rumour of True Things" directed by Paul Bush.
Hardly a frame of "Naqoyqatsi" hasn't been belted round the head with industrial-strength image-processing. The bewildering welter of images mirrors the tidal wave of images, events and information our media floods us with, and seems intended to overwhelm the audience. As is mentioned in the panel discussion also on the DVD, the film firmly inhabits the technological world that is its subject.
All this is impressive and effective, but it also makes the film difficult to understand and even to watch. Where the 'natural' images of the previous films spoke for themselves, here everything is (openly) calculated and deliberate, which in turn means that the viewer must not simply observe but also interpret - frantically. Glass's score is very fine and helps 'humanise' the imagery, but I for one am going to have to watch this again to get to grips with it. However, I believe it will be worth the effort.
on 2 March 2005
I love the Qatsi film trilogy by Godfrey Reggio. I love the sound tracks that Philip Glass has created for them, and this DVD has some of my favourites. The piece called Religion is one of my all-time Philip Glass favourites.
So when the CD came out, I bought it. When the region 1 DVD came out in the US I bought that. I love them both. And when this DVD came out I bought it too. However, I immediately noticed that there was something wrong with the sound. Very simply, the 5.1 surround mix is very different from the region 1 disc. One gets the impression there is something missing. Even in comparison with the CD in stereo, the music on this DVD sounds "thin". Close comparison (2 DVD's, same player, amp, etc) shows that the centre channel on the UK region 2 version has very little content compared with the US region 1 release. There are probably other differences in balance too.
I bought the region 2 version in order to benefit from a better picture (no conversion from film to NTSC frame rates, and greater vertical resolution). However, I can only recommend that if customers are able to play and view the US version, then they go for that. The sound track is much better, and the difference more than makes up for the very slight loss of picture quality which is probably not going to be that noticable. The difference in sound very certainly is.
The film, a masterpiece of film-making wider in scope than any other, manages to tie up the narrative themes of both its preceding parts (the political, the personal, the technological and environmental) and present a clear and damning portrayal of our current way of life. A world of excess, where ambition and profit has far outsripped any other consideration. With a fifteen year gap between Powaqatsi and its final part, Nagoyqatsi, much has changed. The primitive (and now dated) editing techniques from Powaqatsi, have been superceded by revolutionary and groundbreaking visuals that have dated significantly since the films completion. The narrative structure is now even less linear. The viewer, trained by the conceptual leaps and links of the previous two films, is now encouraged to take even greater leaps of faith.
Nagoyqatsi deconstructs everything : the virtual world is shown to be as real as the artificial, and self-imposed, constructs of society. Images of endless computer banks meld into endless rows of skyscrapers... footage of nature is seamlessly morphed into traffic, into people, into rows of numbers, rain, and a truly terrifying montage of nuclear explosions. Rain becomes a series of endlessly rotating Zeroes and Ones, frame graphics of houses, diagrams of nuclear explosions, and ghostly abandoned buildings. Every form of violence - both real and imagined - from the virtual world of Doom to the LA Riots.
The rule of Nagoyqatsi is not only that of "Life as war" but that mankind itself is at war with everything else. "A way of life that consumes others in order to survive". Mankind cannibalises anything and everything in its unthinking quest to reproduce like a virus. Symbols meld into each other, the dollar, the yen, the Pizza Hut logo, all transform into Swastikas, cogs, wheels, and all these things become clear. Far more than its predecessors, Nagoyqatsi is explicit in it's imagery : in our quest for all things to be faster, quicker, better, more, we will soon be extending beyond ourselves. We will consume beyond ourselves, devour ourselves, extinct ourselves.
At the films conclusion we see just how fragile we are. The world shrinks to nothing. Stars surround us, and the earth becomes just another light twinkling in the envelope of space. A beautiful as the view from a spaceship overlooking the earth, as chilling as seeing a crisscross pattern of lines from the same spaceship, vapour trails from ICBM's, the soft, small spots of lights on the earths surface that used to be cities and could now be explosions. Nagoyqatsi is our warning. This world is fragile. Our life hangs in the balance. We will destroy ourselves should we not want to save ourselves.
on 22 August 2008
The first two films in the sequence (Koy ... and Pow ...) are excellent - probably at the top of my favourite film list. This one is at the top of the biggest disappointments list. It could have been so much yet became so little. The initial two films have grave points to make bt manage to make then through stunning and dramatic works. This one fails in everything it looks to achieve. Through watching the entire film all I could do was keep looking at the "time remaining" display on the DVD hoping it your finish soon. Whilst I will not lend my Koy... and Pow... to anybody (too good to risk not getting them back) I will happily give this one away - which is a real shame.
on 31 January 2006
I believe this is the third of the 'qatsi' trilogy. Naqoyqatsi is similar to, but not as impressive, or as beautiful, as Koyanaqatsi, which I believe is the first of the trilogy. If you like a visual treat and if you like the music of Philip Glass, then I would recommend that you try Koyanaqatsi first. But know that this trilogy comprises pictures and music only, with an occasional subtitle. They are not feature films or even documaentaries. They are exercises in cinematography with a musical sound track (the music of Philip Glass).
on 10 May 2007
Prior to Naqoyqatsi, I had only seen the first instalment in this series, Koyaanisqatsi (1982) and there is a need to refer to that film before commenting on the most recent. On release Koyaanisqatsi was fairly groundbreaking stuff, using cinematic techniques such as fast and slow motion and time lapse photography to comment on the way in which man is at odds with, and is destroying, nature. A relentless score by Philip Glass reinforced this message, augmenting the sensation that things were really getting out of control. As a piece of music in its own right I personally found the sound track extremely irritating but in the context of the images it worked perfectly.
I assume that the second instalment, Powaqqatsi, was much of the same and now we have part three, Naqoyqatsi, which is not groundbreaking stuff at all. While it is easy to describe the imagery as 'stunning', it's not actually that special - we see this kind of thing all the time on TV. Unfortunately Reggio has discovered digital imaging and has fallen into the trap, like many others, of using special effects purely for the sake of it, rather than considering how a particular image can be enhanced, augmented or strengthened (if indeed it needs to be), by using computer generated effects. Techno fiends will doubtless by excited by all this but the overall effect is to weaken the message (which is largely the same as that demonstrated in Koyaanisqatsi), although here the emphasis is on the effect of technology. And of course, Reggio is using technology to make his statement so that the whole piece becomes ironic if not paradoxical. Had this notion been implicit in the film then the work would have gained strength, but one gets the feeling that it was overlooked. While there is absolutley nothing wrong with Reggio's philosophy, the technology issue is a major flaw.
As a piece of music, the Glass score is certainly more accessible than that in Koyaanisqatsi but because if this, it detracts from the imagery, giving the piece watered down feel. See it, but I would suggest seeing the earlier pieces first. The result is little more than an extended pop video and has about the same level of interest. Thankfully this is the last in the series. Reggio should have quit while he was ahead: well before this.
on 5 August 2005
If you're expecting anything of the gripping potency and stunning imagery of the other qatsi films you're going to be disappointed. This is just a load of boring imagery over-manipulated by an uninspired amateur VJ. Save your money or better still buy Baraka or Atlantis by Luc Besson if you haven't already got them.
on 30 March 2005
It blew me away in the same way that i was blown away all those years ago watching the others. It's of it's age using current technology, but in such a clever and mesmorising way. I just couldn't draw my eyes away from it and it felt very 'womb like' in a comforting sort of way. I just loved it and i can't wait to watch it again and again.
on 5 August 2014
Well, it's good if you've never seen "Koyaanisqatsi" but as far as I'm concerned the sequels follow the same formula as the original but with less success. Maybe the element they lack is an overarching critique of society, which the viewer thinks they've arrived at by themselves because the images they've seen are so disparate and the "means of suggestion" are so subtle; It keeps Philip Glass in a job, but for me it's a case of "diminishing returns".